Poor Kathy Dent. By now, you have to wonder how she possibly could like her job as Sarasota County supervisor of elections. She’s starting to resemble one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ many dubious quarterbacks. Whenever it’s a crucial moment, those good ol’ Bucs quarterbacks inevitably throw an interception, drop a snap, get sacked or throw the ball out of bounds in desperation.
Something always seems to go wrong when you need it to go right.
Dent is in that role again, this time over the low-profile election race for the Sarasota County Charter Review Board. Losing candidate Kathy Bolam — who lost on election night by 151 votes — has sued the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office and Kathy Dent, with Bolam’s lawyer pitching every possible charge at her — denying Bolam’s rights before the canvassing board, misconduct and asking for a recount.
By now, most of us know the story. On election night Aug. 24, the results showed first-time candidate Bolam losing to incumbent Adam Miller. Because she lost by less than 0.5% of the vote, state law requires a recount.
On the day after the election, Dent called Bolam and told her about the state law. Bolam told Robin Roy of The Sarasota Observer: “(Dent) assured me that her staff would do the recount, but she said I would probably only pick up 10 or 15 votes.”
Unsure what to do, Bolam told Dent she wanted to consult with Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County. Gruters told Bolam that making up 151 votes was unlikely.
Three hours after her phone call with Dent, Bolam e-mailed Dent, saying she was conceding the election.
Dent thanked Bolam in an e-mail for sparing her staff from having to work through the weekend and said Bolam was a “class act.”
And, then, the chattering began among the county politicos. Bolam’s supporters urged her to rescind her concession.
The pressure worked. Rather than hold her position of not wanting to cost taxpayers the expense of a recount and bowing out gracefully, Bolam said she began to feel Dent improperly tried to influence her decision.
Bolam sent a second e-mail to Dent saying she wanted to reverse her earlier decision and demand a recount. “I choose to withdraw the statement made below,” she wrote. “I was not informed of the gravity of that decision.”
In short order, that pushed the issue into the hands of the three-member Sarasota County Canvassing Board, whose members consist of Dent, Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason and Sarasota County Judge Emanuel Logalbo.
Mason favored a recount; “There’s no harm in doing a recount,” she said. Dent and Logalbo voted against a recount. Logalbo said because Bolam conferred with Gruters before conceding the race, it diminished her argument that Dent influenced her decision.
“I would discount the idea there was an influence,” Logalbo said.
Logalbo is right.
Bolam, a woman of sound mind, made choices and decisions in a three-hour period between the time Dent called her on that Wednesday morning and the time Bolam e-mailed Dent that she was conceding. Clearly, questions and choices she faced, and apparently dismissed, were: 1) Knowing what Dent and Gruters said, should she contest the race and pursue a recount? 2) Did she have enough information to make a rational, reasonable decision?
To be sure, Bolam was under no immediate deadline or immediate time pressure to let Dent know what Bolam wanted to do. Bolam claims now Dent omitted important facts: that 80 or 90 provisional ballots were yet to be counted; and there were problems with some of the voting machines jamming.
No doubt Bolam wishes she could re-live that Wednesday, Aug. 25. But when you review the chronology, and even though Dent probably wishes she could take back some of the things she said and wrote, it appears Bolam, under the influence of outside politicos, is taking the standard way out: Don’t accept responsibility. Blame others. File a lawsuit. It’s the American way.